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Archive for December, 2008

|| December 15, 2008 || 10:25 am || Comments (13) ||

When I was a kid, my mother baked constantly. It was something she loved to do; it was something to relieve stress. Consequently, if the table was lined with pies and cookies when we came home on any given day, my sister and I knew to make ourselves scarce because Momma was likely very, very on edge.

So baking was A Thing in our home. This made Christmas baking A Really Big Thing. It was something we looked forward to with the same amount of eagerness a visit from Santa would evoke. We got to be a part of our mother’s ritual then; we got to glean secrets and tips and advice from her personal storehouse of pastry wizardry. We got to play with the cookie press and the frosting bags and the myriad of not-everyday utensils that she kept on hand.

We got to lattice the pies. We got. To Lattice. Those Piiiiiies.

When I got old enough to move out and away –across the country, then over the ocean, then around the world– two things that went with me were my little book of carefully-collected recipes and a set of basic cookie cutters mother had stuffed down into my Christmas stocking one year. No matter where I found myself, no matter how much or how little I had, I always managed to bake, and most especially at the holidays. If I can decorate a tree and turn out some carefully-crafted sweets and pies to share, I am content and have need of nothing else.

This holiday tradition has grown exponentially more enjoyable by the ability to fold my own children into it. Each year we bake (they each have their own favorites they like to play assistant on), storing up our creations in colorful tins which we pull from to make plates for neighbors, friends and parties we attend. All the baking culminates in an afternoon event where I lay out sprinkles and tubes of icing and our sugar cookies cut into various shapes; Scout and Sam and Mathias then have friends over to help decorate (but mostly to giggle and act a fool). This is Christmas to me: Kids in aprons ringed around my table, laughing.

Every year I have the stock recipes I draw from; these are the proven favorites that people have requested and requested again over the years. Every year, though, I try to make one or two ‘floaters’…usually a different kind of cookie or bar or tart that I’ve never tried before, just to keep things interesting. Last year my friend Fran made these amazing little lemon cakelets that I fell in love with. This year she gave me the recipe and I made them for the first time this weekend. They taste phenomenal, they keep well (last year’s gift of them stored up for over a week and were still terrific after all that time) and they make enough to share with loads of people, all from one batch. Enjoy, awesome Muffinasses!

Miss Fran’s Lemon Tea Cakes

1 1/2 c butter (no substitutes), softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 c sugar
6 eggs
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
3 c all purpose flour

5 1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c plus 3 tbsp milk
3 1/2 tsp lemon extract

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in lemon juice, extracts and peel. Gradually add flour. Fill greased mini muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides. Cool for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Combine glaze ingredients. Dip tops of cakes into glaze; place on waxed paper to dry. Makes 8 1/2 dozen.

Feel free to leave one of your own favorites in the comments!

the one where I prattle a little about the eighties. or something. and also I mention my big ole ego.

My friends know me very well. Like, well enough to know if they sent me a link to an ex-boyfriend’s blog I wouldn’t click it if I knew what I was doing. Any e-mail would have to say something along the lines of, “Oooooh, girl. Somebody wrote about you!” and then throw in a permalink for a specific entry. Then I click on it and thumb around the contents a little bit and by the time I’ve added two and two to figure out where I’m at, I’ve already been tricked and what are you gonna do?

So do any of you remember a bold little ditty from the early eighties known as ‘88 Lines About 44 Women’ by The Nails? Has a sort of cadenced, spoken delivery, that one…somewhat like The Jim Carroll Band’s ‘People Who Died’, or ‘Pepper’ by Butthole Surfers.

Well, ex-boyfriend whose site I otherwise would not have visited posted the lyrics to that one, only he replaced many of the names with names of his actual exes. So instead of ‘Zilla’, the line that says ‘Zilla was an archetype / The voodoo queen, the queen of wrath’ says ‘Elizabeth’ and I found myself foolgrinning at the notion that I got the line that defines me as ‘an archetype’. In yon cranium, I can even make the descriptors ‘voodoo queen’ (“That means mysterious and exotic and just an eensy bit scurrrrry.”) and ‘queen of wrath’ (“That means I am a Woman To Be Reckoned With.”) into something akin to a compliment or fond remembrance. THAT IS HOW BIG MY HEAD IS ON SOME DAYS.

And about all the wrong stuff, obviously. I mean, seriously: In the areas of my life where I might actually be justified being a little chest-beaty, I am forever of the notion that I am lacking. In things that don’t actually matter, I am a goofily proud bastard. Welcome to the madness.

Hey, in pursuit of an actual video for this song, I found something for all you Dexter fans out there:

The internet is so fucking awesome. There are upsides to living in Babylon, for sure.

|| December 2, 2008 || 12:19 pm || Comments (12) ||

finally, the respect I deserve up in here

Lately when Mathias wants to come hang out with me in my bedroom (which is off-limits unless one is invited in) (it occurs to me the correlation between that and vampires, don’t get me started), he will knock on the door and when acknowledged with my polite “Yes?” asks, “Permission to come aboard?”

He may be budding some sarcasm but I don’t really think so because his delivery is far too earnest. I think he’s just the ‘interesting’ and ‘unique’ kid I’ve always tried to convey to you that he is. So, “Permission granted.”

In other news, a decent (FINALLY!) barbeque joint has finally dug a trench and settled into this side of the mountain with us. Bad thing is, they sell fried pickles. Really-really-REALLY good fried pickles. Now, as you know*, even an average fried pickle is amazing. With above-par fried pickles around, I’ma have to exercise some fierce restraint, or I’ll have a generous dollop of extra thigh meat to contend with by February.

Oh, that I could’ve been born even ten percent less compulsive.

*and if you don’t, I’m terribly sorry for you

|| December 1, 2008 || 12:37 am || Comments (8) ||

I *am* a hideous triumph of form and function!

Once upon a time, I used to shag pizzas for a living. In pizza parlor vernacular, ’shagging pizzas’ means to run your ass off delivering them. When I took the job, it was with great angst and embarrassment, but it turns out that pizza delivery folk make some pretty decent scratch, all in all. Plus people want to tip you in beer and pot and free peepshows and invite you to their parties because they are already drunk and you’re sporting breasts and a jaunty ballcap.

(One time I got out of the car to hear a guy holler, “Pizza dude’s herrrre!” then amend it with, “WHOA, pizza dude has tits!” upon focusing his beer goggles)

I’m not kidding! On more than one occasion an exhibitionist or two ‘arranged’ to be ‘accidentally surprised’ at a pizza girl arriving to deliver their kitchen sink pie while they were writhing naked on the couch in front of the painfully-clean glass storm door. And then there was the laydeh who lived on Sunset Lane, who had a thing for see-through peignoirs left fetchingly open. Oh the humanity.

So as my sentence as a pizza driver wore on, I came to see that the job had a certain charm; the biggest surprise to me was that it actually was its own flavor of fun when I didn’t look down my nose at myself for being ‘only a pizza driver’. Like any job, it has its own rhythms, its own charm, its own style of communication, its own inside jokes and rituals.

New drivers, of course, got hazed. The lesser end of this was sending them on all the shit runs (waaay out there in BFE, no-tippers, the peignoir laydeh). The greater end of this was sending them on a mission to find either the Dough Patch Kit (for when you put a hole in the disc of dough that will comprise the crust, geddit?) or the Makeline Extender. This was the snipe hunt of the pizza world. Newbie got sent to the back of the store to fetch one or the other and, after either some earnest searching or mere standing around looking at the storage room peppered with some scratching of the head, came back empty-handed. They were then chided mildly and sent back. After a couple-three of these back-and-forths, a seasoned employee would accompany them back to the storage room and after a few seconds of looking in the ‘usual place it’s stored’ pronounced that a store in the neighboring city had borrowed it. Then newbie driver was sent over there to fetch it, only to be greeted with riotous laughter by the other store’s entire crew (who customarily lined up to applaud) upon asking for the nonexistent device.

All of this was running through my head randomly today when something occurred to me: To attempt a relationship with some people is to be sent after the Makeline Extender or the Dough Patch Kit relentlessly and maybe often. At some point you wise up and realize the joke’s been on you, but now you are wiser and will only undertake a fool’s errand if you’re in on the gag. In those circumstances, it’s known as an adventure.